Classic Hollywood #60 – Paulette Goddard

Paulette Goddard, Can I Have Your Autograph, Please?

In this undated photograph taken at the Hollywood Canteen sometime during World War II, a throng of servicemen crowd around film star Paulette Goddard trying to get her autograph.

Though Paulette Goddard had a fairly successful film career and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in So Proudly We Hail (1943), she is not well remembered today. She may be best known for co-starring with her husband Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940). Chaplin and Goddard were married in secret in 1936 on a trip to China.

Born Marion Levy in New York on June 3, 1910, Paulette took her mother’s maiden name when she took up acting professionally. In 1926 Goddard became a Ziegfeld girl and a movie career followed soon afterwards.

Her waif-like beauty attracted men like moths to a flame. Goddard went to the alter four times.

Previous to Chaplin, Goddard was married in 1927 at the age of 17 to wealthy businessman Edgar James. That marriage was over by 1930. After her divorce from Chaplin in 1942, Goddard tied the knot with actor Burgess Meredith (The Penguin in the 1960s Batman TV show and Mickey in Rocky). After that marriage ended in 1949, Goddard found happiness in 1959 with writer Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and remained married to him until his death in 1970.

Paulette Goddard was very nearly cast as Scarlett O’Hara in the classic film Gone With The Wind. Producer David O. Selznick liked her screen tests and she was one of the finalists for the part. Because Goddard was living with Chaplin, but secretly married, Selznick feared the public would not take kindly to the fact that the couple were “living in sin.” Selznick ended up choosing Vivian Leigh for the lead role.

After Goddards’s death on April 23, 1990, the general public was surprised to find out she had amassed a fortune. In 1984 Goddard had anonymously donated over $13 million to New York University. It was announced by New York University president Dr. John Brandmas at graduation ceremonies on May 17, that Goddard had bequest an additional $7 million bringing her total contribution to over $20 million. With this money N.Y.U. to established scholarships, endowed professorships and a fund for junior faculty members.

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